Romblon: Boracay's Underrated Sister
If you find yourself accidentally elbowing somebody along one of Boracay’s stations while trying to soak in that famous sunset, know that you could have enjoyed the same view, the same fine, white sand, on another nearby beach without the competition. Romblon Island, the capitol of Romblon province, is about 75 kilometers—five hours away by boat—and a world away from its more high-profile neighbor.
Perhaps what’s most charming about it is that it’s still largely unconcerned with the presence of visitors. The residents themselves, perhaps cautious from what they’ve seen in Boracay, are keen to keep a low profile. There aren’t any big resorts, nobody is plying for tours at the port—the lack of tourism infrastructure really opens the island up to the freedom of being explored.
If it’s powdery white sand you’re looking for, your best bet is to ask a tricycle driver from town to take you to Bonbon Beach. He will stop beside a path along an overgrown lot beside the highway with no beach in sight. You will doubt him, and that’s perfectly fine. But follow that path and be rewarded. You won’t find any resorts here—or any establishments at all, for that matter; just rugged terrain leading out into a long, postcard-worthy shoreline.
Try to visit during low tide to walk along the sandbar leading up to the uninhabited Bangug Island. Keep in mind that Bonbon is private property. Although the owners have been very generous with the access, avoid setting up camp and keep the area clean.
The Marlin Bar, a restaurant and inn perched at the edge of the water is a mere 500 meters away from the beach and the de facto watering hole on the island. But for something a little more accessible, Stone Creek Home, a boutique hotel, is right in the middle of town and guaranteed to offer excellent service.
Because Romblon Island isn’t a regular stop on the tourist circuit, there are a number of ways to get there but they all require a certain exercise in patience. Most straightforward would be to take an overnight 2G0 ferry from Batangas port directly to the island. Alternatively, from Manila, one can opt for an hour-long flight into Tablas, the province’s commercial center, catch a jeep or motorcycle to San Agustin port, then finally a boat. Though the sand isn’t as fine, Tablas itself has plenty to offer and deserves at least a day or two on the itinerary. Better yet, its southernmost tip, Santa Fe, is less than 30 kilometers from Boracay and accessible by boat, which makes the Boracay-Tablas-Romblon route a worthy and extremely picturesque undertaking.
A warning: There will be missed connections. Perhaps a boat will be filled to capacity and you might be forced to spend the night. Or a jeep will leave too soon, and you’ll find yourself traveling via habal-habal for two hours. But imagine your hair whipping in the wind while you hug the turquoise coastline, and think that the inconvenience of it all lends to the adventure; that the reward at the end answers the question of why people still bother to go out of their way and travel.